Secret Tunnels below Cape Town City

As a child I read adventure stories about caves, and under ground tunnels. It always captured my imagination. Just the other day I was watching the latest Batman movie “Batman begins”. Seeing the caves beneath the Bruce Wayne’s mansion  and knowing that I would soon be undertaking an adventure to see the tunnels beneath Cape Town, my heart started pumping a little bit faster in anticipation.

Yes, there are tunnels under Cape Town. They are, however, not so much a secret as simply forgotten. Very few Capetonians know about these tunnels. But they exist. I know because I have been inside of them.

The tunnels are not open to the general public. One has to join an organised tour group to see them. The tour group that I joined was Good Hope Adventures.

Good Hope Adventures is a private tour company that was established in 2010 for the Soccer World Cup to provide visitors with an insight into the historical and cultural importance of Cape Town “The Mother City”. We cater for group and individual tours throughout the Western Cape and we will take you to all the places you want to see – and to those, you have yet to discover. We also have extensive knowledge on a variety of outdoor sports that are unique to the Cape.

Good Hope Adventures is owned and managed by Mathias Weisse, a registered SA TOUR GUIDE member. Matt, being born and bred in Cape Town has an immense insight into the well known and the “Off the Beaten Track” points of interest and treasures of The Fairest Cape.

The Tunnels: Parts of the underground Canals and Rivers date back to 1652. They used to supply the Company Gardens and the passing ships with fresh water. Later these rivers flowing through the city became pleasant walk ways shaded by Oaks with bridges going over them. Cape Town had its own Gentleman’s Walk and was known as little Amsterdam. As the years passed and the City expanded the Canals were used to transport sewerage until 1895 by when they were all arched over and forgotten. Today these historic Canals with their impressive architecture convey the sweet waters of Table Mountain and some Spring Water into the ocean.

They tell me that the tunnel serves up 1.5 million liters of fresh mountain water per day. Most of this runs off into the sea. However there are projects afoot to use this water. There is one firm (a bank) that uses the water in their toilet systems, and the Greenpoint urban park now uses this water to irrigate the gardens.

I found the tour of the tunnels to be immensely interesting. One is delighted with tales from the historical past. Sitting down in the tunnel with all the torches and headlamps switched off you hear the eerie sounds of the city above your head.

The TV series Fear Factor apparently used these tunnels in one episode.

This is a tour I recommend to every Capetonian and visitor to our city. If you want to get in touch with the history of Cape Town this is one very good way to go about it.

7 thoughts on “Secret Tunnels below Cape Town City

    • At first the tunnels were on the surface and carried water from the springs to the castle of the Cape of Good Hope, or at the time it was probably still known as the fort.
      These tunnels were paved out by the Dutch who occupied the Cape at the time.
      Later when the English had won the Cape from the Dutch during the Napoleonic wars they encased the tunnels by building the upper half. There is a distinct colouring difference between the lower and upper halves of the tunnel.
      The Dutch part was first and the bricks were fired in a kiln in Holland and shipped over by sailing vessels. These were harder bricks than the bricks used by the British later as they had to withstand the daily flow of water, and they were a dark red colour.
      The British bricks were fired by a kiln in England and are a lighter colour. The apparent reason for the covering of the tunnels was that the English had had a recent experience with the plague and they were taking precautions…whether that is true however is debatable.

      thanks for your comment.

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